The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has for decades been a locus of dispute between ardent defenders of its scientific validity and vociferous critics who charge that it covertly cloaks disputed moral and political judgments in scientific language. This essay explores Alasdair MacIntyre's tripartite typology of moral reasoning—"encyclopedia," "genealogy," and "tradition"—as an analytic lens for appreciation and critique of these debates. The DSM opens itself to corrosive neo-Nietzschean "genealogical" critique, such an analysis holds, (...) only insofar as it is interpreted as a presumptively objective and context-independent encyclopedia free of the contingencies of its originating communities. A MacIntyrean tradition-constituted understanding of the DSM, on the other hand, helpfully allows psychiatricnosology to be understood both as "scientific" and, simultaneously, as inextricable from the political and moral interests—and therefore the moral successes and moral failures—of the psychiatric guild from which it arises. (shrink)
The revisions of both DSM-IV and ICD-10 have again focused the interest of the field of psychiatry and clinical psychology on the questions of nosology. This book reviews issues within psychiatricnosology from clinical, historical and particularly philosophical perspectives. It brings together an interdisciplinary group of distinguished authors.
Neuroethics to date has tended to focus on social and ethical implications of developments in brain science, especially in functional neuroimaging. Within clinical neuroethics, the emphasis has been on ethical issues in clinical neuroscience practice, including informed consent to neuroimaging; the development of ethical research protocols for functional magnetic resonance imaging especially, and especially in children; and the ethical clinical management of incidental findings. Within normative neuroethics, we have witnessed the more philosophical and/or social scientific study of the meanings of (...) developments in neuroscience, including concerns about the impact of neuroimaging on privacy, freedom of thought, moral culpability, and sense of self. In this piece, I argue for an expansion of neuroethical attention to the interface of neuroscience and psychiatry, where brain science meets the clinical sciences of the mind. My particular focus is the development of psychiatric classification systems. (shrink)
Important philosophical work has gone into debunking thoroughly entrenched positivist notions that objective science proceeds in a value neutral manner. Dr. Tamara Kayali Browne's article "A Role for Philosophers, Sociologists, and Bioethicists in Revising the DSM" admirably takes the next step. Given the evaluative elements that permeate, in this case, the science of nosology—how do we deal responsibly with those evaluative elements? She correctly, in my opinion, concludes that dealing with evaluative issues responsibly is tantamount to dealing with them (...) ethically. But, as her concrete example of the ethics of premenstrual dysphoric disorder demonstrates, dealing with the ethics of the science of... (shrink)
Psychiatry has long struggled with the nature of its diagnoses. This book brings together established experts in the wide range of disciplines that have an interest in psychiatricnosology. The contributors include philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists, historians and representatives of the efforts of DSM-III, DSM-IV and DSM-V.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, currently in its fourth edition and considered the reference for the characterization and diagnosis of mental disorders, has undergone various developments since its inception in the mid-twentieth century. With the fifth edition of the DSM presently in field trials for release in 2013, there is renewed discussion and debate over the extent of its relative successes - and shortcomings - at iteratively incorporating scientific evidence on the often ambiguous (...) nature and etiology of mental illness. Given the power that the DSM has exerted both within psychiatry and society at large, this essay seeks to analyze variations in content and context of various editions of the DSM, address contributory influences and repercussion of such variations on the evolving landscape of psychiatry as discipline and practice over the past sixty years. Specifically, we document major modifications in the definition, characterization, and classification of mental disorders throughout successive editions of the DSM, in light of shifting trends in the conceptualization of psychopathology within evolving schools of thought in psychiatry, and in the context of progress in behavioral and psychopharmacological therapeutics over time. We touch upon the social, political, and financial environments in which these changes took places, address the significance of these changes with respect to the legitimacy (and legitimization) of what constitutes mental illness and health, and examine the impact and implications of these changes on psychiatric practice, research, and teaching. We argue that problematic issues in psychiatry, arguably reflecting the large-scale adoption of the DSM, may be linked to difficulties in formulating a standardized nosology of psychopathology. In this light, we highlight 1) issues relating to attempts to align the DSM with the medical model, with regard to increasing specificity in the characterization of discrete mental disease entities and the incorporation of neurogenetic, neurochemical and neuroimaging data in its nosological framework; 2) controversies surrounding the medicalization of cognition, emotion, and behavior, and the interpretation of subjective variables as 'normal' or 'abnormal' in the context of society and culture; and 3) what constitutes treatment, enablement, or enhancement - and what metrics, guidelines, and policies may need to be established to clarify such criteria. (shrink)
Psychiatry is becoming a cognitive neuroscience. This new paradigm not only aims to give new ways for explaining mental diseases by naturalizing them, but also to have an influence on different levels of psychiatric norms. We tried here to verify whether a biological paradigm is able to fulfill this normative goal. We analyzed three main normative assumptions that is to say the will of giving psychiatry a valid nosology, a rigorous definition of what is a mental disease, and (...) new tools for destigmatizing mentally ill patients. Although these different kinds of normativity are very heterogeneous, we must conclude that, in all these cases, biological psychiatry is a failure, in part because of a lack of epistemological conceptualization. (shrink)
This multidisciplinary collection explores three key concepts underpinning psychiatry -- explanation, phenomenology, and nosology -- and their continuing relevance in an age of neuroimaging and genetic analysis. An introduction by Kenneth S. Kendler lays out the philosophical grounding of psychiatric practice. The first section addresses the concept of explanation, from the difficulties in describing complex behavior to the categorization of psychological and biological causality. In the second section, contributors discuss experience, including the complex and vexing issue of how (...) self-agency and free will affect mental health. The third and final section examines the organizational difficulties in psychiatricnosology and the instability of the existing diagnostic system. Each chapter has both an introduction by the editors and a concluding comment by another of the book's contributors. Contributors: John Campbell, Ph.D.; Thomas Fuchs, M.D., Ph.D.; Shaun Gallagher, Ph.D.; Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D.; Sandra D. Mitchell, Ph.D.; Dominic P. Murphy, Ph.D.; Josef Parnas, M.D., Dr.Med.Sci.; Louis A. Sass, Ph.D.; Kenneth F. Schaffner, M.D., Ph.D.; James F. Woodward, Ph.D.; Peter Zachar, Ph.D. (shrink)
In face of the multiple controversies surrounding the DSM process in general and the development of DSM-5 in particular, we have organized a discussion around what we consider six essential questions in further work on the DSM. The six questions involve: 1) the nature of a mental disorder; 2) the definition of mental disorder; 3) the issue of whether, in the current state of psychiatric science, DSM-5 should assume a cautious, conservative posture or an assertive, transformative posture; 4) the (...) role of pragmatic considerations in the construction of DSM-5; 5) the issue of utility of the DSM - whether DSM-III and IV have been designed more for clinicians or researchers, and how this conflict should be dealt with in the new manual; and 6) the possibility and advisability, given all the problems with DSM-III and IV, of designing a different diagnostic system. Part I of this article took up the first two questions. Part II will take up the second two questions. Question 3 deals with the question as to whether DSM-V should assume a conservative or assertive posture in making changes from DSM-IV. That question in turn breaks down into discussion of diagnoses that depend on, and aim toward, empirical, scientific validation, and diagnoses that are more value-laden and less amenable to scientific validation. Question 4 takes up the role of pragmatic consideration in a psychiatricnosology, whether the purely empirical considerations need to be tempered by considerations of practical consequence. As in Part 1 of this article, the general introduction, as well as the introductions and conclusions for the specific questions, are written by James Phillips, and the responses to commentaries are written by Allen Frances. (shrink)
Discussions of psychiatricnosology focus on a few popular examples of disorders, and on the validity of diagnostic criteria. Looking at Anorexia Nervosa, an example rarely mentioned in this literature, reveals a new problem: the DSM has a strict taxonomic structure, which assumes that disorders can only be located on one branch. This taxonomic assumption fails to fit the domain of psychopathology, resulting in obfuscation of cross-category connections. Poor outcomes for treatment of Anorexia may be due to it (...) being pigeonholed as an Eating Disorder, when a disturbance of body perception may be a more central symptom than food restriction. This paper explores the possibility of restructuring the DSM taxonomy to allow for a pluralist classification of disorders. This change could improve treatment and research without requiring any changes to diagnostic criteria. (shrink)
In the 2000s, several psychiatrists cited the lack of relational disorders in the DSM-IV as one of the two most glaring gaps in psychiatricnosology, and campaigned for their inclusion in the DSM-5. This campaign failed, however, presumably in part due to serious “ontological concerns” haunting such disorders. Here, I offer a path to quell such ontological concerns, adding to previous conceptual work by Jerome Wakefield and Christian Perring. Specifically, I adduce reasons to think that collective disorders are (...) compatible with key metaphysical commitments of contemporary scientific psychiatry, and argue that if one accepts the existence of mental disorders in individuals as medical, then one has good reasons to accept the existence of collective disorders as medical. First, I outline how collective disorders are reconcilable with both the harmful dysfunction model of disorder and a denial of mind-body dualism. I then identify some potential weaknesses in the main pre-existing example of a collective disorder, offering my own examples as supplements. These examples’ medical plausibility is bolstered by: work in philosophy of biology on the generalized selected effects theory of function, and work in analytic philosophy of mind on collective mentality. Finally, after offering preliminary responses to the objection that the recognition of collective disorders may lead to an overpathologization of everyday life, I spell out ways in which this recognition may have empowering effects for some would-be patients; for example, by providing substance to the notion of a “sane response to an insane world.”. (shrink)
Animal models of human disease play a central role in modern biomedical science. Developing animal models for human mental illness presents unique practical and philosophical challenges. In this article we argue that existing animal models of psychiatric disease are not valid, attempts to model syndromes are undermined by current nosology, models of symptoms are rife with circular logic and anthropomorphism, any model must make unjustified assumptions about subjective experience, and any model deemed valid would be inherently unethical, for (...) if an animal adequately models human subjective experience, then there is no morally relevant difference between that animal and a human. (shrink)
The reorganization of psychiatric knowledge at the turn of the twentieth century derived from Emil Kraepelin’s clinical classification of psychoses. Surprisingly, within just few years, Kraepelin’s simple dichotomy between dementia praecox and manic-depressive psychosis succeeded in giving psychiatry a new framework that is still used until the present day. Unexpectedly, Kraepelin’s simple clinical scheme based on the dichotomy replaced the significantly more differentiated nosography that dominated psychiatric research in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Moreover, although (...) all the components of the future development were already available shortly after 1868, the real course, which led to Kraepelin’s dichotomy, was unpredictable then. This paper explores the ways in which the unpredictability of psychiatric knowledge and the postulate of a rationality underlying psychopathological phenomena interacted in the debates regarding the classification of psychoses. It examines the “natural antagonism” between the practical aspirations of an increasingly specialized medical nosology and unitary conceptions, which, in a psychopathological countermovement, emphasized that no somatic criteria can be specified for the majority of psychic abnormalities and that all nosological distinctions are not binding. In this context, this paper investigates the revival of unitary theories of psychosis in postwar German psychiatry and seeks to understand why the forms of thinking that dominated nineteenth-century psychiatry have proved to be very lasting. Furthermore, this paper emphasizes the perspectivity underlying psychiatric research on psychoses and explores the ways in which writing the history of the schizophrenia concept involves inevitably writing the history of the entire psychiatry. (shrink)
The question of how psychiatric classifications are made up and to what they refer has attracted the attention of philosophers in recent years. In this paper, I review the claims of authors who discuss psychiatric classification in terms referring both to the philosophical tradition of natural kinds and to the sociological tradition of social constructionism — especially those of Ian Hacking and his critics. I examine both the ontological and the social aspects of what it means for something (...) to be a mental disorder, and how the ontological status of these disorders hinges on social causation. Finally, I conclude by suggesting a way in which the biological and the social may be reconciled in an integrative model of variation in psychiatric disorder. (shrink)
The classification of mental illness—enshrined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—has historically followed a categorial model of disorder. However, in light of psychiatry’s failure to validate the DSM categories, psychiatrists have developed dimensional models for understanding and classifying disorders, such as the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria initiative (RDoC). While some philosophers have recently contributed to the literature on dimensional approaches to psychiatric research and classification, no sustained engagement has yet been offered (...) by continental phenomenologists. In this article, I argue that phenomenological research can benefit from a broadly dimensional orientation—albeit one that differs in many respects from the RDoC. Developing this argument, I motivate, outline, and illustrate a phenomenological-dimensional approach. In so doing, I show how a dimensional orientation can circumvent problems stemming from the use of current diagnostic categories as a guide to psychiatric research. In addition, I argue that a dimensional orientation need not conflict with more traditional phenomenological approaches, such as the core gestalt model, and can even complement and support such approaches. (shrink)
Tamara Kayali Browne's proposal for an Ethics Review Panel for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders conceives of a state-sponsored panel of academic experts—philosophers, sociologists, and bioethicists—dealing in a reflective, systematic, and standardized manner with the "value judgements" that are an "integral and unavoidable part of psychiatricnosology". The panel would consider existing and new diagnostic categories, and issue authoritative vetoes and/or modifications as appropriate. Browne asserts that, "it should not be necessary to have protests and (...) political activism, such as that involved in removing homosexuality from the DSM, in... (shrink)
For most of this past century, scholarship on the topics of personal- ity and emotion has emerged from the humanities and social sciences. In the past decade, a remarkable change has occurred in the influence of neuro- science on the conceptualization and study of these phenomena. This article ar- gues that the categories that have emerged from psychiatricnosology and descriptive personality theory may be inadequate, and that new categories and dimensions derived from neuroscience research may produce a (...) more tractable parsing of this complex domain. The article concludes by noting that the dis- covery of these biological differences among individuals does not imply that the origins of these differences lie in heritable influences. Experiential shaping of the brain circuitry underlying emotion is powerful. The neural architecture provides the final common pathway through which culture, social factors, and genetics all operate together. (shrink)
Murphy (2006) criticizes psychiatricnosology from the perspective of the philosophy of science, arguing that the model of pathology as encapsulated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders reflects a folk conception of the mental, and of malfunctioning, that is inadequately integrated with cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. The present paper supports this view through a case study of research on pathological gambling. It argues that recent modeling based on fMRI studies and behavioral genetics suggests a stipulative, (...) non-seamless reduction of pathological gambling to a specific disorder of the mesolimbic dopamine system. This argument is agnostic as between prior philosophical commitments to realism or empiricism. (shrink)
An evolutionary theory of schizophrenia needs to address all symptoms associated with the condition. Burns' framework could be extended in a way embracing behavioural signs such as catatonia. Burns' theory is, however, not specific to schizophrenia. Since no one single symptom exists that is pathognomonic for “schizophrenia,” an evolutionary proposal of psychiatric disorders raises the question whether our anachronistic psychiatricnosology warrants revision.
Knowing, either by the light of natural reason or by the light of Christian revelation, that homosexuality is a disordered condition is not sufficient for its being ethically permissible to direct self-identified homosexual persons toward just any treatment that aims to modify sexual orientation. For example, such an undertaking would be morally impermissible in cases where the available “treatments” are known to be both futile and potentially damaging to persons undertaking them. I, therefore, introduce this edition of Christian Bioethics by (...) reflecting on (a) the position of homosexuality in our current psychiatricnosology, (b) problems with drawing causal inferences from the outcomes of psychotherapy studies, and (c) the advantages and disadvantages of appealing to traditional categories of sexual orientation in this discussion, all with an eye toward more deeply elucidating core ethical concerns involving the intentional psychotherapeutic modification of sexual orientation. (shrink)
Before we respond to Tamara Browne's proposal for an external ethics advisory review panel to oversee content in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, we wish to introduce ourselves. One of us is a professor of bioethics, a lawyer, and a doctor of public policy, and one of us is a philosopher of psychiatry who studies psychiatricnosology, and who has done bioethics work for two congressional advisory agencies. Based on our backgrounds, we flatter ourselves that (...) we might be considered as members of the DSM ethical review panel Browne proposes. However, we realize that one of us would likely be ineligible because of a lack of experience in psychiatry, and the other would... (shrink)
The catch 22 situation in psychiatry is that for precise diagnostic categories/criteria, we need precise investigative tests, and for precise investigative tests, we need precise diagnostic criteria/categories; and precision in both diagnostics and investigative tests is nonexistent at present. The effort to establish clarity often results in a fresh maze of evidence. In finding the way forward, it is tempting to abandon the scientific method, but that is not possible, since we deal with real human psychopathology, not just concepts to (...) speculate over. Search for clear-cut definitions/diagnostic criteria in psychiatry must be relentless. There is a greater need to be ruthless and blunt in this, rather than being accommodative of diverse opinions. Investigative tests - psychological, serum, CSF, or neuroimaging - are only corroborative at present; they need to become definitive. Medicalisation appears most prominent in psychiatry; so, diagnostic proliferation and fuzziness appear inevitable. And yet, the established diagnostic entities need to forward greater and conclusive precision. Also, the need for clarity and precision must outweigh pandering to and mollifying diverse interests, moreso in the upcoming revision of diagnostic manuals. This is specially because the DSM-5, being an Association manual, may need to accommodate powerful member lobbies; and ICD-11 may similarly need to cater to diverse country lobbies. Finding precise biological correlates of psychiatric phenomena, whether through neuroimaging, molecular neurobiology and/or neurogenomics, is the right way forward. It is in the 1.5-kg structure in the cranium that all secrets of psychiatric conditions lie. Social forces, behavioural modification, psychosocial restructuring, study of intrapsychic processes, and philosophical insights are not to be discounted, but they are supplementary to the primary goal - studying and deciphering those brain processes that result in psychiatric malfunction. Experimental breakthroughs, both in psychiatric aetiology and therapeutics, will come mainly from biology and its adjunct, psychopharmacology; while supplementary and complementary breakthroughs will come from the psychosocial, cognitive and behavioural approaches; the support base will come from phenomenology, epidemiology, nosology and diagnostics; while insights and leads can hopefully come from many fields, especially the psychosocial, the behavioural, the cognitive and the philosophical. Major energies must now be marshalled towards finding biomarkers and deciphering the precise phenotype-genotype-endophenotype axis of psychiatric disorders. Energies also need to be focussed on unravelling those critical processes in the brain that tip the scale towards psychiatric disorders. At how those critical processes are set into motion by forces de novo, in utero, in the genes and their expression, by the environment's psychopathological social forces - stress, peer pressure, poverty, deprivation, alienation, malnutrition, discrimination of various types (caste, gender, race, etc.), mass conflicts (war, terror attacks, etc.), disasters (natural and man-made), religious/ideological fascism - or social institutions like marriage, family, work place, political governance, etc. Ultimately, we must decipher how the brain goes into malfunction when such varied forces impinge on it, which precise cortical areas and neuronal cellular and molecular processes are involved in such malfunction and its manifestation, as also which of these are involved when malfunction ceases and health is restored, and the psychosocial processes and institutions which aid such health restoration, as also those which promote well-being and help in primary prevention. Emphasis on the brain and its intimate neurological and molecular mechanisms will not impinge on, or nullify, importance of the 'mind,' wherein subtle and gross brain functions in the form of behaviour, thought and emotions in all their ramifications will continue to be the focus of psychological, cognitive, sociological, psychopharmacological, behavioural and philosophical research. Progress in brain research must move in tandem with progress in 'mind' research. (shrink)
The paper considers whether psychiatric kinds can be natural kinds and concludes that they can. This depends, however, on a particular conception of ‘natural kind’. We briefly describe and reject two standard accounts – what we call the ‘stipulative account’ (according to which apparently a priori criteria, such as the possession of intrinsic essences, are laid down for natural kindhood) and the ‘Kripkean account’ (according to which the natural kinds are just those kinds that obey Kripkean semantics). We then (...) rehearse a more permissive account: Richard Boyd’s ‘homeostatic property cluster’ (HPC) account. We argue that psychiatric kinds can in principle count as natural kinds on the HPC account. Moreover, specific psychiatric kinds (Tourette’s, schizophrenia, etc.) can be natural kinds even if the category psychiatric disorder is not itself a natural kind. (shrink)
Psychiatric ethics as professional and biomedical ethics -- The distinctiveness of the psychiatric setting -- Psychiatric ethics as virtue ethics -- Elements of a gender-sensitive ethics for psychiatry -- Some virtues for psychiatrists -- Character and social role -- Case studies in psychiatric virtues.
Understood in their historical context, current debates about psychiatric classification, prompted by the publication of the DSM-5, open up new opportunities for improved translational research in psychiatry. In this paper, we draw lessons for translational research from three time slices of 20th century psychiatry. From the first time slice, 1913 and the publication of Jaspers’ General Psychopathology, the lesson is that translational research in psychiatry requires a pluralistic approach encompassing equally the sciences of mind (including the social sciences) and (...) of brain. From the second time slice, 1953 and a conference in New York from which our present symptom-based classifications are derived, the lesson is that, while reliability remains the basis of psychiatry as an observational science, validity too is essential to effective translation. From the third time slice, 1997 and a conference on psychiatric classification in Dallas that brought together patients and carers with researchers and clinicians, the lesson is that we need to build further on collaborative models of research combining expertise-by-training with expertise-by-experience. This is important if we are to meet the specific challenges to translation presented by the complexity of the concept of mental disorder, particularly as reflected in the diversity of desired treatment outcomes. Taken together, these three lessons – a pluralistic approach, reliability and validity, and closer collaboration – provide an emerging framework for more effective translation of research into practice in 21st century psychiatry. (shrink)
Ethical issues are pivotal to the practice of psychiatry. Anyone involved in psychiatric practice and mental healthcare has to be aware of the range of ethical issues relevant to their profession. An increased professional commitment to accountability, in parallel with a growing "consumer" movement has paved the way for a creative engagement with the ethical movement. The bestselling 'Psychiatric Ethics' has carved out a niche for itself as the major comprehensive text and core reference in the field, covering (...) a range of complex ethical dilemmas which face clinicians and researchers in their everyday practice. This new edition takes a fresh look at recent trends and developments at the interface between ethics and psychiatric practice. Coming ten years after the third edition, the editors have observed several emerging aspects of psychiatric practice requiring coverage, as a result, 5 new chapters have been added, including cutting edge topics - such as neuroethics. All other chapters have been fully revised and updated. The book will continue to be essential reading for psychiatrists, psychologists, other mental health professionals, and bioethicists, as well as of interest to policy makers, managers and lawyers. (shrink)
The frequent occurrence of comorbidity has brought about an extensive theoretical debate in psychiatry. Why are the rates of psychiatric comorbidity so high and what are their implications for the ontological and epistemological status of comorbid psychiatric diseases? Current explanations focus either on classification choices or on causal ties between disorders. Based on empirical and philosophical arguments, we propose a conventionalist interpretation of psychiatric comorbidity instead. We argue that a conventionalist approach fits well with research and clinical (...) practice and resolves two problems for psychiatric diseases: experimenter’s regress and arbitrariness. (shrink)
Extant business research has not addressed the ethical treatment of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. This article will describe previous research on individuals with psychiatric disabilities drawn from rehabilitation, psychological, managerial, legal, as well as related business ethics writings before presenting a framework that illustrates the dynamics of (un)ethical behavior in relation to the employment of such individuals. Individuals with psychiatric disabilities often evoke negative reactions from those in their environment. Lastly, we provide recommendations for how employees and (...) organizations can become more proactive in providing individuals with such disabilities equal employment opportunities for both access and accommodation in the workplace. (shrink)
A large part of the controversy surrounding the publication of DSM-5 stems from the possibility of replacing the purely descriptive approach to classification favored by the DSM since 1980. This paper examines the question of how mental disorders should be classified, focusing on the issue of whether the DSM should adopt a purely descriptive or theoretical approach. I argue that the DSM should replace its purely descriptive approach with a theoretical approach that integrates causal information into the DSM’s descriptive diagnostic (...) categories. The paper proceeds in three sections. In the first section, I examine the goals (viz., guiding treatment, facilitating research, and improving communication) associated with the DSM’s purely descriptive approach. In the second section, I suggest that the DSM’s purely descriptive approach is best suited for improving communication among mental health professionals; however, theoretical approaches would be superior for purposes of treatment and research. In the third section, I outline steps required to move the DSM towards a hybrid system of classification that can accommodate the benefits of descriptive and theoretical approaches, and I discuss how the DSM’s descriptive categories could be revised to incorporate theoretical information regarding the causes of disorders. I argue that the DSM should reconceive of its goals more narrowly such that it functions primarily as an epistemic hub that mediates among various contexts of use in which definitions of mental disorders appear. My analysis emphasizes the importance of pluralism as a methodological means for avoiding theoretical dogmatism and ensuring that the DSM is a reflexive and self-correcting manual. (shrink)
In this article I examine some of the issues involved in taking psychiatric disorders as natural kinds. I begin by introducing a permissive model of natural kind-hood that at least prima facie seems to allow psychiatric disorders to be natural kinds. The model, however, hinges on there in principle being some grounding that is shared by all members of a kind, which explain all or most of the additional shared projectible properties. This leads us to the following question: (...) what grounding do psychiatric disorders qua natural kinds have? My principal method for examining the issue is a case study of a particular psychiatric disorder: the so-called “apathetic children.” I argue that there appear to be at least two competing models that both appeal to non-organic a grounding of the disorder. However, for other psychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the evidence points toward an organic explanation of the disorder. I contend that what unites psychiatric disorders is not a distinctive type of grounding that all psychiatric disorders share, but the distinctive set of determinable properties that is shared by all psychiatric disorders. (shrink)
At present, psychiatric disorders are characterized descriptively, as the standard within the scientific community for communication and, to a certain extent, for diagnosis, is the DSM, now at its fifth edition. The main reasons for descriptivism are the aim of achieving reliability of diagnosis and improving communication in a situation of theoretical disagreement, and the Ignorance argument, which starts with acknowledgment of the relative failure of the project of finding biomarkers for most mental disorders. Descriptivism has also the advantage (...) of capturing the phenomenology of mental disorders, which appears to be essential for diagnosis, though not exhaustive of the nature of the disease. I argue that if we rely on the distinction between conceptions (procedures of identification) and concepts (reference-fixing representations), which was introduced in the philosophical debate on the nature of concepts, we may understand a limited but valid role for descriptive characterizations, and reply to common objections addressed by those who advocate a theoretically informed approach to nosology. (shrink)
Several authors have recently suggested that the suffering caused by mental illness could provide moral grounds for physician-assisted dying. Yet they typically require that psychiatric-assisted dying could come to question in the cases of autonomous, or rational, psychiatric patients only. Given that also non-autonomous psychiatric patients can sometimes suffer unbearably, this limitation appears questionable. In this article, I maintain that restricting psychiatric-assisted dying to autonomous, or rational, psychiatric patients would not be compatible with endorsing certain (...) end-of-life practices commonly accepted in current medical ethics and law, practices often referred to as ‘passive euthanasia’. (shrink)
This paper provides an interpretation, based on the social systems theory of German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, of the recent paradigmatic shift of mental health care from an asylum-based model to a community-oriented network of services. The observed shift is described as the development of psychiatry as a function system of modern society and whose operative goal has moved from the medical and social management of a lower and marginalized group to the specialized medical and psychological care of the whole population. (...) From this theoretical viewpoint, the wider deployment of the modern social order as a functionally differentiated system may be considered to be a consistent driving force for this process; it has made asylum psychiatry overly incompatible with prevailing social values (particularly with the normative and regulative principle of inclusion of all individuals in the different functional spheres of society and with the common patterns of participation in modern function systems) and has, in turn, required the availability of psychiatric care for a growing number of individuals. After presenting this account, some major challenges for the future of mental health care provision, such as the overburdening of services or the overt exclusion of a significant group of potential users, are identified and briefly discussed. (shrink)